WILKESBORO — The No. 2 Wilkes Central Eagles needed 12 seconds to take the lead over the No. 7 Lincolnton Wolves on Friday in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.
Senior Wilkes Central running back Cameron Williams burst through the middle of the Lincolnton defensive line on the first play from scrimmage and charged 72 yards, untouched, for a touchdown.
But the lead didn’t last long. Lincolnton senior Demetris Anderson charged 85 yards on the ensuing kickoff, evading would-be tacklers and dodging past the kicker, for a touchdown. The Wolves faced a 7-6 deficit after missing the extra point, but a touchdown in the opening minute of the second quarter gave them a lead on their way to a 41-21 victory.
“I was proud of the way the kids responded after that first play from scrimmage,” Lincolnton head coach Scott Cloninger said. “A young team could have put its head down and it would have been over but they responded. I heard a big cheer from our team when he ran that one back so I knew that put us back in the game.”
Both teams went three-and-out on their next drives, but the Eagles crossed into Lincolnton territory on their third possession of the game. The Eagles ran the ball 12 consecutive times and faced fourth-and-13 from Lincolnton’s 30-yard line. Quarterback Calvin Shomaker dropped back to pass, but was wrestled to the ground by Lincolnton sophomore Darian Roseboro to turn the ball over on downs.
“When you’re a run team you practice run blocking most of the time,” Cloninger said. “When they had a pass we knew we had them in the position we wanted. They were doing something they weren’t used to and that was when Darian was able to put some pressure on the quarterback.”
That touched off a nine-play scoring drive by the Wolves. Lincolnton moved the ball downfield with five carries for 21 yards by junior running back Justice Whitesides, two passes from freshman quarterback Jordon Easter to junior receiver D.J. Cunningham for 10 total yards and a 15-yard facemask penalty by the Eagles. Facing fourth-and-3 from the Eagles’ 24-yard line the Wolves executed a halfback pass by junior Ketawn Ingram to Cunningham in the left-front corner of the end zone for a 13-7 lead for Lincolnton with the extra point by Braden Willis.
“We haven’t run it, but we’ve been practicing it all year long,” Cloninger said. “We knew they’d be coming up hard on the line of scrimmage and it was a big play for us.”
The Eagles took a 14-13 lead three minutes later with a 37-yard run by Victor Williams but Easter gave the Wolves the lead for good with a 4-yard run, his first of three touchdowns, with two minutes left before halftime.
Easter scored on a 1-yard run on the opening drive of the second half and, after the Lincolnton defense forced the Eagles to a three-and-out, drove the Wolves deep into Wilkes Central territory with a 47-yard run before capping the drive with a 2-yard scoring run for a 34-14 Lincolnton lead.
Freshman running back Willie Cobb scored Lincolnton’s final touchdown on a 2-yard run with 4:48 left in the fourth quarter. The Eagles added their final score on a 26-yard pass from Shomaker to wide receiver Joey Hicks.
Whitesides led the Lincolnton ground attack with 24 carries for 104 yards. Easter finished close behind with 23 carries for 92 yards.
The Wolves travel to No. 6 Thomasville on Friday for a rematch of last year’s fourth-round game. If both Lincolnton and East Lincoln win on Friday, the two teams will meet in the third round on November 16.